Saturday, October 27, 2012

Four Months (originally posted October 27, 2012)

Tomorrow is the 28th of the month.  It has been four months since Zach took his life on June 28th.  Tomorrow is All Saints' Sunday.  Or maybe it is the next Sunday.   In either case, we will honor the saints tomorrow.   In church we will pass the microphone around the sanctuary so people can name those who have died this past year and we will ring the singing bowl when each name is mentioned.    

In the afternoon, Lovely, Daughter, and I will sprinkle some of his ashes around a tree planted in his memory at Holston Camp.  Then on Monday I leave for Montana to visit my parents and extended family.  I haven't seen my parents since Zach died.   And yes, I will take the bus.  It's what I do.

I have been reading, My Son, My Son:  A Guide to Healing After Death, Loss, or Suicide by Iris Bolton.  She lost her son to suicide.  She was a counselor at a counseling center, "The Link."   A couple of board members had said after her son's death:
"If she couldn't help her own son, how can she expect to help anyone else?"
She goes on to say:
The funny thing is that I agreed.  So paralyzing is the combination of depression, guilt, and shock, that its victim is mentally reduced to a jackstraw, a hollow man, a cipher.  p. 36
I know that feeling.  How could/can I be a minister, preaching, teaching, and counseling when I failed my most important assignment?   Who in their right minds would listen to anything I have to say when in my primary role as a father I delivered to the world a corpse rather than a living, productive man? 

Iris Bolton faces the goblins and continues as a counselor.  She writes:
Some persons had declared openly that The Link was finished if I were to return.  But we continued to be busy.  Parents began to refer teenagers to me for help in preventing their suicides, and I was overwhelmed with the wonder of it.  How could they think that I might help them when I had failed to save my own son?  I was in awe of what seemed to be a miracle.  More than anything else, it helped me to begin to find some meaning in the meaninglessness of Mitch's death.  p. 40
At some point she decided to disagree with the voices outside (and more importantly inside) of her that said she was a failure.   She stuck it out.   I hope I can be that strong.

It isn't even so much "the job" as it is the existential feeling of failing.  I failed to give my son whatever it was he needed to keep going.   I also know that I did what I could given my human fallibility.   I know that if I were responsible for this death it wouldn't have happened.   But I don't know if that feeling of failure will ever go away.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Leaves (originally posted October 22, 2012)

One of our church members, Samantha, was a camper when Zach was a counselor at Holston Camp in 2006.  She shared this pic of Zach helping out one of the campers.    He was really good with them.  I wondered if he might have gone into some kind of work with kids.

Lovely, Daughter, and I returned from vacation Saturday night.  We found the leaves had changed and already are falling. It may be a long winter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Narrative (originally posted October 11, 2012)

On Friday we received the official death certificate from the funeral home.   It took over three months for the officials to finish their work.   On the lower left a little box was checked next to the word, "suicide."   We knew that of course.  The police had originally told us it was an accident but eventually we determined what had happened.   Now it is official.  A box has been checked on a government document.  Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

Saturday was a hard day.  There are many hard days to come.   I wonder how long it will take for me to create my own meaning from this.  Grief experts say I need a narrative.   I suppose I have been trained for that task.  I am after all, a "religious professional."     One of my working definitions of religion is to create meaning out of a meaningless existence.   We are storytellers and narrative-makers.  We come from a long line of them.

Lawrence Krauss tells us that universes pop in and out of existence without any supernatural shenanigans.   We live and move and have our being in one of those "pops."  What does that mean?    The author of Genesis took a crack at it, "When God began creating..." as did the author of the Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word...."  I suppose for some Genesis and John still work well.   At times even for me.   I am giving it a college try to create my own narrative of meaning in a Krauss Universe.   You can find it in the pages of this blog and in my Sunday sermons.  It isn't much, but it's mine. 

Religion tries to make sense of out of senseless tragedy and violence.  The Romans tortured and executed thousands of rebels and undesirables by public crucifixion as a warning and as demonstration of power.  One of these poor wretches is named, has stories attached to him, and is turned into a god.  His death saves the world from sin.  His resurrection brings believers to eternal life.  That is quite a narrative.  It was a narrative compelling enough to create Christendom.   It works for some.   At times, even for me.    I am giving it a college try to create my own narrative of the meaning of Jesus.   You can find it in the pages of this blog and in my Sunday sermons.  It isn't much, but it's mine. 

I admit that I am better at deconstructing than constructing.   I am better at poking holes in narratives than in creating them.   But my personal task now is to construct.  So what is the narrative for the life and death of my beautiful boy?    It won't be much but it will be mine.    Hopefully, it will be a narrative that will help me to carry on, to forget myself in laughter more often than not, to get lost in a sunset, to grow old a little wiser, to grow closer to my Lovely and my daughter, to own my sad feelings and to weep through them, to discover a deeper sense of compassion, to live life as fully as I can, and to live it for my son and for me.   I want my narrative of Zach to help me do that.   

It will have to include the story of the time he called us into the bathroom.   He was maybe two or three.  He was sitting on the toilet, bent over with the seat cover on his back.  He laughed and said he was a teenage mutant ninja turtle.  Any narrative of my Zach will include a story of him racing down the street in his Big Wheel wearing his cowboy boots.   It will include him standing proudly with me and greeting parishioners on their way out the door.  It will have to include both of us in our Taekwondo uniforms, and playing video games, and skiing at Snow Ridge.  Hugs.  How do you tell a narrative about Zach hugs?  How do you put hugs in words?    The way he called me, "Pops."   How do I write the way he called me "Pops"?

His heart.  His big heart.   His big compassionate heart that wouldn't let him hurt a bug.  His big heart wouldn't let him stand for meanness or let him see someone bullied without speaking up.   His big heart and his mind knew pain.   He felt pain, excruciating, senseless, meaningless pain that he couldn't share, that I couldn't take from him, that I couldn't reach.   I don't know how to tell that story, not now, not yet, but someday I may be able to tell of his courageous and lonely struggle.   I may never grasp this meaninglessness, but I will tell his story--my story of Zach.    He gave us so much joy.   Amidst it all, he gave us joy.  I will keep him in my heart, always.         

Monday, October 8, 2012

Meaning of Life, Part 78 (Originally Posted October 8, 2012)

We live in a world that doesn't like pain. We too might be tempted to turn from it, to keep the stiff upper lip. But grief asks us to touch pain, to sit with pain and to ask it to tea. Being with your sorrow is brave. It is counter culture courage. Not only is there nothing wrong with you for feeling your pain, know that it takes strength to venture into this frightening territory.

~Ashley Davis Bush